What kind of home damage can a flood cause?
Last updated: August 2023
Most people know that floods have the potential to cause damage across cities and neighborhoods. Depending on the severity of a flood, you may be left needing to make expensive repairs if one damages your home. Everyone is at risk for flooding, so understanding how a flood can damage your home, and what steps you can take to protect your property, can help you be better prepared.
How can a flood damage my home?
From loose floorboards to mold, a flood can damage your home in many ways. But, before you re-enter your house to survey the damage, be sure to walk around and visually inspect the property for structural damage, and check for downed power lines or gas leaks, recommends Ready.gov. Do not enter the home if you have any doubts on whether it's safe to do so.
Here are some examples of damage you may find at your home after a flood has occurred:
Structural and electrical damage
Floods can cause structural damage, such as loose or buckling floors and roof or foundation cracks, says Ready.gov. You may also notice broken or frayed electrical wires in your home after a flood. If you or your clothes are wet, or if any wires are wet, avoid touching outlets, switches and the electrical box, and have an electrician inspect the wiring.
The appliances in your home, including the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, water heaters or refrigerators, can be compromised by flood water. If you re-enter your home and find that they are wet or damaged, you should turn off the home's electricity, if it's safe to do so, and refrain from using them until they've been inspected by a professional, recommends Ready.gov.
Keep in mind that the food in your home may also spoil due to lack of refrigeration from a power outage, or from encountering with flood water. Be sure to throw away items that have produced mold or emit a foul odor. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that if you doubt the quality of any food items, you should throw them away.
Mold and mildew
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) notes that mold can begin to grow on any damp surface within 24 to 48 hours. This means that in addition to building materials, such as drywall, flooring and insulation, your personal property —such as clothing and furniture —can be affected by mold after a flood. One way to help prevent the growth and spread of mold is to dry out your home and belongings as soon as possible. Open the windows and, if an electrician has determined that it's safe to use the electricity, use fans and dehumidifiers to help dry out the house, recommends the CDC.
Damage to septic and well water systems
Septic tank filters can become clogged with debris after a flood and affect its ability to accept water, says the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Plan to have it inspected and tested as soon as possible after a flood. Flood water can also carry sediment that may get into wells and contaminate drinking water, adds the EPA. Be sure to have your water tested and, if needed, treated, before drinking it.
What should I do if my home sustains flood damage?
If a flood forced you to evacuate, you should not return to your residence until local authorities say it's safe to do so, says Ready.gov. Remember, when you return home, be cautious and observe the condition of the property from the outside before entering. Do not stand in flood water or puddles if there are downed power lines nearby, as the water can become electrically charged, says the American Red Cross.
As you go through your home, document damaged belongings and take photos. It'd be a good idea to contact your insurance provider as soon as possible to discuss next steps, or file a claim if you have a flood insurance policy. Keep in mind that a standard homeowners insurance policy does not typically cover flood damage.
How much could it cost to repair flood damage?
According to FloodSmart.gov, a 2,500 square-foot home that floods with 6 inches of water could tally up a potential loss of more than $50,000. And remember that unless you've purchased a flood insurance policy, you will likely need to pay for repairs out of your own pocket.
Buying a flood insurance policy
A flood insurance policy helps pay for some home repairs and the replacement of damaged belongings after a flood. Similar to other insurance policies, and depending on the coverage you choose, you'll likely need to pay a deductible before your policy helps cover a claim, and will be subject to a coverage limit.
Typically, a homeowner can purchase a flood insurance policy through a licensed insurer or broker, according to the National Flood Insurance Program. The insurance provider can complete a flood insurance policy application on your behalf and provide you with a cost estimate. If you purchase a flood policy, it's important to note that there is typically a 30-day waiting period before it can go into effect — this means the policy may not be active until 30 calendar days after the application was submitted.
Your insurance provider can help answer additional questions about flood insurance or help you purchase a policy.